Europe is one big step closer to payments integration with the announcement that the deadline for migration to the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) has been set for Feb. 1, 2014, a deadline ratified in February by the European Parliament. Aside from the headline 2014 date, existing niche schemes which represent less than 10% of credit transfer or direct debit payment volumes in a particular country have until 2016 to migrate to the SEPA credit transfer (SCT) and SEPA direct debit (SDD) schemes.

Reactions to the SEPA end-date have largely been positive. It is widely acknowledged that a deadline is essential if full migration to SEPA is ever to occur, given the pace of uptake so far. As of December, SCTs represented 23.7% of all credit transfers within the eurozone, while SDDs made up a mere 0.5% of all direct debits, according to data from the European Central Bank (ECB).

"The banking industry as well as corporates welcomed the SEPA end-date announcement because it delivered the direction and planning certainty for which market participants were long awaiting," says Wolfgang Stockinger, head of payables and receivables for the Global Transaction Banking unit of Deutsche Bank.

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